Motherhood

Tip: What age can kids stay in the car alone?

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOTV) - Fighting car seats, baby carriers, buckles and more buckles can get old really quick from a parenting perspective.  I often find myself driving with the kids and thinking of all of the places I need to stop and the errands that need to be ran but the sheer thought of getting them in and out of car seats is daunting. 

I think every parent has that moment where they look at the door to the gas station and think, "it's just right there.  I can see the car the whole time.  Could I just run in?"

You know what I'm talking about right?

This isn't a story about kids in hot cars.  I think most people understand that's a horrible situation that no child should ever be subject to for any reason.

This story stems from a conversation my husband and I have often.  When can you leave them in the car "for a sec" and when is it not ok? 

I once read an article that came across my Facebook feed about a mom who ran into the dollar store while her older children (maybe 6 or 7) waited in the car because they were complaining about not wanting to come in. They were happily playing IPAD, the weather was fine and the doors were locked and she had a visual of the car the whole time.  She ran in, grabbed the milk she needed and ran back out.  It was a matter of 3 or 4 minutes if I remember correctly.

A few days later the police showed up at her door, with photos from that day from an observer, arrested her and CPS become involved.  After months of legal battles over parental negligence and alleged child endangerment, she finally was cleared and able to move on with her life.  She shared the story and her fear of possibly getting her children taken from her over this one small action.  The story has stuck with me as a mom about the choices you make in the moment and the consequences.

So for the sake of this "tip" I thought others may be curious on what is ok and what isn't.  I reached out to local law enforcement and did some online digging to get some answers.  My son is almost seven and we will soon be crossing that bridge.  Here's what I found out.

When can you leave your child in the car un-attend?

According to Michigan law (MCL 750.135a) you can not leave a child younger than 6 years old in a vehicle unattended.

It's also important to note that the child must be left in the vehicle with someone who is at least 13 years old and that person must not be incapacitated.   (Basically you can't leave your toddler with your 10 year old in the car.  Make sense? Or you can't leave your child in car with someone who is an adult but is incapacitated.) 

Here are a few more specific points of the law that are important to note:

(1) A person who is responsible for the care or welfare of a child shall not leave that child unattended in a vehicle for a period of time that poses an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to the child or under circumstances that pose an unreasonable risk of harm or injury to the child.

What could happen if you violate the law:

 A person who violates this section is guilty of a crime as follows:

(a) Except as otherwise provided in subdivisions (b) to (d), the person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.

(b) If the violation results in physical harm other than serious physical harm to the child, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 1 year or a fine of not more than $1,000.00, or both.

(c) If the violation results in serious physical harm to the child, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 10 years or a fine of not more than $5,000.00, or both.

(d) If the violation results in the death of the child, the person is guilty of a felony punishable by imprisonment for not more than 15 years or a fine of not more than $10,000.00, or both.

Though I think most parents, (including myself) have the best of intentions, some times we make choices in moments of stress and desperation.  I hope this article sticks with you and reminds you in those moments to always choose wisely.

 

 


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About Carly Munoz

Carly Munoz is the WOTV 4 Women crew member focusing on motherhood! Being a working mom of two (a pre-schooler and an infant) is no easy task and Carly chronicles her daily adventures in parenting.

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